Recently I thought I should make a list of my top 10 films of all time. Making best-of lists is a hallowed tradition on this blog after all, so why not go for the big kahuna?
Because it’s insane, that’s why. As Roger Ebert wrote: “Let us agree that all lists of movies are nonsense.”
As with other forms of nonsense, making lists of movies retains its allure in spite of the absurdity. It’s fun, frustrating, and futile all at once.
Let’s dive in.
It takes two
Once I started putting together my initial longlist to consider, I quickly realized narrowing it down to one Top 10 wouldn’t do. Choosing 10 films from a century’s worth of options would mean leaving out too many iconic (to me) films and rendering this exercise pure masochistic nihilism.
So I gave myself an out. Two, actually.
First, hearkening back to my Favorite Films of the 2010s, I decided to build the list based on genres. This helped provide structure and ensure a wider representation for my picks. Second, I allowed for two films per genre, representing a Legacy pick (before 1980) and a Modern one (after 1980). With two important exceptions, this held true.
Those criteria established, the selections fell into line fairly easily. It felt good to have similar films from different eras paired up rather than pitted against each other. (It did not feel good to leave off so many contenders I love, but such pain is the cost of this endeavor.)
- The list is ordered alphabetically by genre, with the legacy selection listed first in each.
- I didn’t rank or annotate the films because they speak for themselves.
- The selections represent my taste at this very moment. Maybe I’ll revisit this every decade like the Sight & Sound poll to keep myself honest.
- Disagree with a film’s genre placement? Leave a comment or let me know and I’ll tell you why you’re wrong.
Enough throat-clearing. I give you:
The Greatest Films of All Time
Action/Adventure: Die Hard and Mad Max: Fury Road
Comedy: Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Anchorman
Drama: It’s A Wonderful Life and Unbreakable
International: Ikiru and The Lives of Others
Musical: Singin’ in the Rain and Once
Noir: Double Indemnity and Brick
Romance: Casablanca and Brokeback Mountain
Sci-Fi/Fantasy: Back to the Future and Lord of the Rings
Thriller: Rear Window and Memento
Western: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and Hell or High Water